Back in the 90s, the home page concept was all the rage. Yahoo! built an entire business model around the home page concept and they’re still doing it to this very day. Nevertheless, in this Web 2.0 age, is the home page model dead or has it merely evolved?
Going back to the Yahoo! example, most web surfers often thought of Yahoo! as a search engine. But if you were to take a peek into the past, it’s obvious that this is a misconception. As you can clearly see, the search portion of the home page takes up less than 10% of its screen real estate. The overwhelming majority of Yahoo!’s home page are information snippets that link to the actual full content; be it directory links, weather reports, games or even classified ads.
Yahoo! enjoyed near total domination when it comes to search… until from almost out of nowhere came this new kid on the block called Google.
It’s hard to mistaken Google as anything other than a search engine. It’s home page is fully taken by a search form; without the bells and whistles which all search engines at the time had. Regardless of whether this layout came about due to the founders lack of HTML know-how or as a result of a brilliant marketing study, we all know that it works (for most people)!
Both companies stayed true to their roots even today. Even as they developed or acquired more web assets, their home page remained very similar to what they looked like in the late 90s.
Now what have we learned about these two web giants’ approach when it comes to the home page? Most obvious would be the target audiences of the two. Clearly Yahoo! is going for the average web user who needs all the guidance he can get. Nothing beats visual cues when it comes to novices; and that’s what the icons and motley coloured widgets are telling them.
Google on the other hand seems to be an ardent believer of the KISS concept. It’s almost impossible to do anything but searching via its home page! However, do not mistake this as being out-of-touch when it comes to the “average” web searcher.
Google has actually mastered the art of dishing out search results. They don’t presell the way Yahoo! does; they in fact followed a marketing approach used for decades by a well-known fast food company; McDonald’s. Why? Familiar with the quote, “Would you like fries with that, sir?”
Yes, Google supplements whatever you’re searching for with their other products. Searched for a place? Google will include a link to Google Maps zoomed in to the location. Searched for currency information? The exchange rate would almost always be the first result. Searched for a company name? If it’s listed on the stock exchange, you’ll probably see it’s stock ticker symbol along with its performance chart and latest price. For most other searches, you’ll probably get links to the latest breaking news about the search term.
Is there a right way to design a home page? I don’t think so. The design would probably be a combination of the webmasters’ preferences and their target audience. What works for another web site would not necessarily perform just as well on yours. The key is in experimenting and taking notes on the outcomes.
So what’s your favourite home page?